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TPG reader Jake asked:
“Do you need a valid passport at the time of an award booking or just at the travel day?”
To put it simply, you don’t need a passport at the time of an award booking, however you do need it by the time you travel and I would strongly advise that you get all your paperwork settled well in advance of any departure date.
I am actually in a situation where I am leaving for the Maldives and India very soon and my India visa is still in limbo. Frankly, I can’t go on the trip if I don’t get my passport back, and the Indian consulate rejected my visa simply for putting “Ave” instead of “Avenue” in my address on my application!
I’ve been using Allied Passport & Visa and they have been great at assisting me with expediting it, but this is a good lesson learned that you shouldn’t leave anything to the last minute!
I’ve used Allied several times to get visas and most recently for a second passport, and while they do charge processing fees, they’ve saved me time and money which can make it more than worthwhile. You don’t need to use an agency, but if you want to avoid trips to passport offices/consulates, using one can make a lot of sense and save you a lot of time.
If you don’t use an agency, make sure you have all the documents you need by the date that you travel. A lot of countries including China now have transit visas, where you don’t need a visa if you are just traveling through for less than 72 hours. On August 1, 2013, Guangzhou became the third city in China allowing visits of up to 72 hour without an advance visa application for passengers transiting on. The only requirements for these 72-hour transit visas are that passengers must be in possession of a confirmed ticket for onward travel to a third country (no roundtrips and no staying in China), that they have to be arriving by plane (so no bus, train or ferry), and they cannot leave the city they land in during that period – although in the case of Guangzhou they can travel throughout the Guangdong Province, which is good because Guangzhou is mainly an industrial megalopolis.
Wherever you are going, I recommend printing out all the necessary rules and having all documentation, because all it takes is one airline agent who doesn’t know the rules to not allow you to board the flight.
I’ve heard lots of horror stories about people who can’t board flights because their passport is invalid for six months or longer, or they don’t have a full empty page in their passport, so I am going to put some passport and visa tips below.
If you are ever not sure about the process, using an agency can save you time and money but at the end of the day you are at the mercy of the consulate or the airline agent, so you have to make sure everything is ready to go on the day that you leave.
For more on passports and visas, check out these previous posts: